I was folding laundry and mulling someone who recently mentioned his gifted childhood, when actually he didn't seem real bright to me. Kind of dim, in fact. And this is something that has happened fairly regularly over the years: someone works into the conversation that they were in a gifted program in school, and I think, "...Huh."
I have come up with a theory, and it is this: that there is Gifted and that there is Ahead, and that schools and tests have trouble telling them apart (and/or that maybe it's not possible to tell them apart early on). Which leads to many, many people being categorized as Gifted (not only in academics but in music and dance and sports and so forth), and then later suffering the unpleasant feeling of things not having panned out.
(I think there are other issues involved, too, such as Potential vs. Application, and Aptitude vs. Motivation, and Abilities vs. Interests, but here I'm only talking about the Gifted vs. Ahead thing.)
When I worked in the infant room of a daycare, we sometimes had a baby who would walk at, say, 9 months. This would make the other babies' parents feel a little funny: their babies were not measuring up; their babies were not getting a fuss made over how advanced they were.
But was the early-walking baby GIFTED? No, just temporarily ahead of the other babies. That baby was not going to maintain that gap between her physical abilities and the physical abilities of the other babies; it's just that she got there first, and then all the other babies caught up. Perhaps there will be a few star athletes among the early walkers and then we will say "Ah! The ability was evident even early on!" But the majority of the early walkers will later be only regular walkers, indistinguishable from the average and late walkers, and there will also be star athletes from the late walkers and we just won't remark on it because it won't seem significant then.
I think it can be the same with academics: sometimes the school system calls a child "gifted" when that child is just ahead of the other children at that point. A child who is reading at a 12th-grade level at age six is not likely to maintain that 11-year gap all her life: it's more likely she is AHEAD, and soon the others will catch up. It IS likely she (like all the others at her reading level) will still be a better/faster reader than many of her adult peers, but it will not be as startling a gap, nor will it be likely to have as big an impact on her adult life as it did on her elementary school life.
The problem, I think, is that a child who is told she's eleven grades ahead at age 6 gets the feeling that she is eleven grades ahead FOR LIFE. But soon there isn't "eleven grades ahead" to BE: we don't say that a 24-year-old is reading at a 35-year-old level. And this leads the adult version of the gifted child to feel a certain dissatisfaction with life: wasn't she...GIFTED? So why has the gap for the most part vanished? Where did the all the fuss and all the discussions of potential disappear to? It's because all she was was temporarily ahead.
Or it's because there was a misunderstanding about what gifted means. A child growing up with bright parents might think that gifted means EVEN BRIGHTER, or in a class of their own---when actually it means being part of a large group that is brighter than the average of the general population, an average they may have assumed is higher than it is. It's still good news, but what it means is that they get to have the kind of college-educated job they were already assuming they'd get, rather than a job that requires few mental skills. What they might have been thinking of as an ordinary and non-gifted life IS the gifted life: being able to communicate in both spoken and written word; valuing knowledge and education; being able to think things through; being able to read well and enjoy reading; being able to analyze and critique; being able to take a stab at helping the children with their homework (although I am grateful for Wikipedia, because I am more than a little fuzzy on 7th grade history) (and rules of grammar) (and what IS that lattice-math thing they're doing??).
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...